A recent list of upcoming Microsoft Press titles for Windows Server 2003 shows that many important books, such as the Windows 2003 resource kit, won't be available until months after the product's April 24 launch. But don't let the Microsoft Press release dates confuse you: Microsoft plans to support Windows 2003 with an unprecedented amount of free online documentation that runs the gamut from technical references and planning and architecture guides to complete deployment and operations guides. A source at the company told me this week that Microsoft is developing a new sustaining-content model that will ensure that Windows 2003 users get the most comprehensive documentation the company has ever produced.
 
"We will provide an exhaustive set of documentation with the goal of keeping it always up-to-date, correct, and always immediately available online," my source told me. "We will have content available at the product's launch online, and then we will add to that continuously. Then, Microsoft Press will take that content and publish books. The resource kit is an example of that."
 
When Windows 2003 ships in April, Microsoft will unleash deployment, Windows NT migration, and planning and architecture reference material to the TechNet Web site. During the ensuing months, on a monthly basis the company will add other content, including information about Windows 2003 operations. In addition, Microsoft will continually update existing content. The idea is to break with the past, when the company delivered content primarily at a product's launch. With Windows 2003, Microsoft will time content delivery to match IT and developer life cycles and won't orphan existing Windows 2003 content.
 
Although the plan makes sense, Microsoft still needs to work out some technical problems. For example, how will the company alert users when content they've downloaded has been updated? Microsoft is looking at several solutions and is trying to develop a technical infrastructure that works within the existing TechNet and Knowledge Base technologies.